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Night Eating Syndrome

Night Eating Syndrome

Night eating syndrome or NES, is diagnosed when a person with full awareness eating throughout the night, which can make it difficult to fall back asleep until he/she eats again.


People who have night eating syndrome tend to feel an intense shame about their eating habits, they usually go to great lengths to keep their problems hidden from the people they love.


People with night eating syndrome often exhibit a series of symptoms that can be easy for family members to spot. These signs include:
  • After-dinner eating. Half of the calories a person with this syndrome takes in during the day are consumed at dinner or in the hours that follow.
  • Morning fasting. Breakfast is usually skipped, or alternative ways are being made to delay eating breakfast.
  • Food hoarding. Keeping a refrigerator in the bedroom or snacks in the nightstand may suggest a sign of night eating.
  • Frequent trips to the store. People with this syndrome tend to focus on carbohydrate-laden foods; they can often feel the need to head back to the store to restock the foods they’re missing.
  • Insomnia. People with the syndrome are at a higher risk for poor sleep habits, as their bodies are actively working on digestion at night.


The causes of night eating syndrome tend to vary depending on the person, usually a variety of contributing factors are taken into consideration. Sometimes college students can pick up the habit of eating at night and can’t seem to break the habit when they become working adults. High achievers sometimes work through lunches, and overcompensate by consuming more throughout the night. Night eating syndrome, can be considered as response to dieting. When people decide to restrict their intake of calories during the day, the body will signal the brain that it needs food. The individual typically will over eat at night. Night eating is also known to be a response to stress.


Treating night eating syndrome usually starts with educating patients about their condition, that way they’re more aware of their eating patterns and can start to identify triggers that influence how they eat. By identifying that they have night eating syndrome and that it is not their fault can be an important first step toward recovery. The treatment of night eating syndrome can also include a nutritional assessment and therapy, exercise physiology, and an integration of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), interpersonal therapy (IT) and stress management.